It almost seems a little unfair to rate South Africa's win as only an innings and 12 runs. When a team declares at 2 down things are going somewhat better than that. Let's begin with some comfort for England though. Ther batting wasn't so bad. Notwithstanding that the pitch was flat, and they ought to have scored many more, they batted for almost exactly two and a half days, slbeit slowly, which is by no means a failure. What let them down was some soft dismissals, caused in large part, by the consistent pressure put on them by South Africa's bowlers, particularly Steyn.
It was that pressure that won the match. Yes, Amla was magnificent in his serene concentration and impeccable timing, Kallis remains a technician par excellence, and Smith a fighter who plays to his limits, even if he looks like he is shovelling sand into a lorry. But on that pitch, which on the first day made even South Africa look a little weak - though not so weak as to justify the pronouncd dominance of the English, not at 3/275 anyway - to bowl England out twice was very good. Morkel was excellent, accounting for Strauss, Trott and Prior in the first dig, and out-thinking, even embarrassing Pietersen in the second. None of Steyn's wickets were near so pretty, but he works batsmen over until they gift-wrap their wickets to him at the slghtest chance.
The next test wil not be so close, but England must still address how to find wickets when batsmen are not so inept as to give them to them, nor the conditions so kind as to guarantee it. No team should be able to score 500+ runs for a single wicket, yet either modern captaincy, tactics, pitches, or batsmen are regularly doing so. At some point waiting isn't an option, and the sense that England sleep-walked into conceding 2/637 even while their discipline and fielding standards were maintained is an odd one.
For South Africa, the test allayed none of their fears about de Villiers keeping and batting, about the quality of Duminy, Petersen and Rudolph, and a come-down is inevitable. For all that England wasn't in it, this test still had its moments, and the series is well poised (if still too short).
The West Indies have been on something of a run of late. Adding some players of real class to the lineup, and playing a New Zealand side whose tour to date has been as blighted by injuries as by losses, means they will go into the match as roaring favourites. Assuming the pitch takes spin, Narine will be a handful, as he was in the one-day series, and all games at home to date. Though neither side has a stong batting lineup, both find runs down the order, and there is the outside chance of a highway killing the contest outright. Hopefully a low-scoring, tightly fought contest will emerge; expect, but be wary of predicting, a West Indies win.
Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.
Idle Summers 25th July, 2012 00:44:48 [#]